Friday, July 27, 2012

Hoop Jumping

When I finished my Masters Degree from USF, one of the reasons I chose not to go into a PhD program right away was the administrative bull crap that comes along with any degree. It was not the work, it wasn't the research. It was the hoop jumping that was required.

I'm pretty organized. I learn my degree requirements and make sure I understand the program, what's expected, and when it is due to the proper officials. I can handle that. What starts to drive me batty is when requirements for the College and for the Department don't line up and NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN WHY OR HOW TO FIX IT.

Being a PhD student, I belong to a bunch of different people (to simplify things, I'm calling them people). I belong to the Graduate College, who have fairly generalized requirements and don't understand  a lick of what goes into scientific research but seem to like forms and paper. I belong to the College of Arts and Sciences, who start to understand science and somewhat know the requirements of the Grad College. Finally, I belong to the Department of Biological Sciences. I am not really sure what they understand, to be perfectly honest.

I don't pay to come to school here. I have an assistantship that covers my tuition and gives me a teaching stipend. It's awesome and I am very grateful for this. It was smooth sailing for the first year. I applied for in state residency to save the Department money on out of state fees. I do my registration on time. I get my forms in early. I have an awesome adviser who rocks at science and research and getting his students out on time. We sat down at the beginning of last fall, made a time line and check in to make sure we are there every so often. Well, not all the grad students are like me or have adviser who even know what the degree requirements are. Degree programs are being stretched to their limit, and the Department only has so much money to give. That means they have to cut and set limits.

Recently, the Department decided they are only going to pay for 6 credit hours per fall and spring semester per grad student and 1 hour in the summer, unless there are unique circumstances. Students can still get out on time (I can't really say this with a straight face because apparently this is a problem in our Department). HOWEVER, the Grad College stipulates full time graduate student enrollment is 8 credit hours during the fall and spring, 4 during the summer. Here come all the hoops.

I have spent more time on the phone and sending emails this summer than I care to spend. I am enrolled for 2 credit hours this summer. Two does not equal four. So I am not full time. This bumped my student discounts on insurance. One of my student loans from undergrad threatened to fall out of deferment. Isaac's and my health insurance was dropped since I am under the university policy and they can only cover FULL TIME STUDENTS. The State retirement fund (I technically work for the State of Ohio) takes 10% of your paycheck automatically if you aren't a full time student. That makes no sense at all to me, and my summer stipend was already lower than a minimum wage job at McDonalds. It was literally one thing after another.

This morning, I took care of what I hope to be the final issue for this year. When I filled out my financial aid forms in the early spring semester, I put that I was enrolled full time. This was before the Department changed what they would pay for. That means, I was awarded the maximum amount of federal aid allowable to a full time student. Until, I wasn't a full time student anymore. All of sudden my award disbursement was suspended and I had no idea why. I took care of everything as it was popping up. I need that money. Isaac needs that money. WE NEED THAT MONEY. I finally figured out this morning, after a length call to the financial office, that my award status does not meet my enrollment status. I had to change it to match, or my aid would be severely delayed, if not cancelled for the Fall semester.

This is not a hoop. This is a flaming hoop like the ones the circus wants animals to jump through. It's a pain in the rear, to put it delicately.

I have enough going on in my life without the hassle of dealing with these types of things that arise since other students can't get their act together to graduate on time. I understand extenuating circumstances. But when the average length of the programs is getting longer and longer because people fail to get their  requirements done on time and I am being stifled because of it? That I don't understand.

Fingers crossed there are no more issues. I have a dissertation to complete.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The R Word

Coming back into Ohio, as well as into the academic setting after so long in the workplace and in California was a huge adjustment that I have talked about many times (and probably more to come). I have learned a great deal about myself, my husband, in addition to valuable lessons on trust, integrity, and commitment. One of the most important lessons, however; has been running through my mind frequently over the past two summer months. This is one on a word we all know: RESPECT.

Everyone wants it. Everyone thinks they deserve it. But a very small handful seem to understand that they have to earn it.

I attended this university as an undergrad, and took courses from many of the professors who are still here today. Some are in the same positions, others are not. Perhaps it is the time I spent away from academia, or this university, or this State in general. Perhaps it's that I am older and been in different environments. Or perhaps it's always been this way, and I did not see it.

I can't respect people who throw out racist comments that visibly make others uncomfortable. I just can't. Especially when this comes from someone who should know better. There are a million excuses, but the bottom line is this: with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility involves being aware of comments you make in reference to race. Period. I know that I can't respect that.

But what if that person is in a position that deserves respect?

I can respect your position and your authority, as long as I am in a position below you. But I can't respect you as a person. And as one continues down this path, it becomes increasingly difficult to respect you in your position. Know your place. And adapt your behavior to it appropriately. Then I will respect you.

In addition to being a student, I am a teacher. I have taught a diverse group of students over the past 2 semesters and summer session. I have had amazing students in all my labs, both majors and non majors. And not so amazing ones.

Let's set the record straight. I respect your position as a student. I realize that entering the world of higher learning as a freshman is difficult and everyone comes from different cultural, social, and academic backgrounds. I understand that my class is not your only class, but please don't expect me to hand out pity because you "can't get out of bed on time".

I was an undergrad once. I know it's hard. I know it's overwhelming. I know you are dealing with a mountain of changes in your life. I respect that. I also know how hard it is to have a family and be a student. I respect your position in being a parent first. I understand the importance of that role. What I do not respect is all your excuses for not coming to class. You know what? I respect honesty. You know what I don't respect? A sense of entitlement. You could be a genius. You could go on to make brilliant scientific discoveries like curing cancer. Until then, please remember, you are a student, my student. And I am going to give you all due respect. And I do mean all DUE respect. Truth be told, I am pretty lenient and laid back. I let you make work up if you attempt to show you have respect for me, my time, and the course. If you acknowledge you are in the wrong and try to modify your behavior. I'm clear on my expectations from the start. 

Early in the last semester a student was mouthy with a professor of the class I sit in on The professor called him out on it, and rightly so. Later that afternoon, I got a call from the Department Chair wanting to know what had happened and what I thought of the situation. A student had complained. I told the truth. The student was out of line, big time and deserved to be called out. I didn't think the fully tenured, experienced professor who had taught me many years ago was wrong. This professor was clear on his personality and methods and expectations from the beginning. I came to find out that the student that complained about the professor being offensive was not even the student called out in class. That particular actually apologized for his behavior after class. And all of a sudden the Chair starts showing up in class to monitor the professor, not telling him of his intentions. W.T.F. 

The lack of respect in that situation made me sick to my stomach.

These situations got me thinking about how my son will behave in class. How he will learn respect. I can tell you this much. If my son spoke to a professor in that manner, I would be appalled and angry. And embarrassed because that is a reflection on me. If my son made racist comments in a public setting and wasn't an elderly man from the deep South  (not that that makes racism ok, but makes it understandable that he thought that type of remark was ok. The person that made this comment was not those things), I would feel the same.

The bottom line is this. No matter what position you are in, respect needs to be earned. And respect needs to be given to those positions above you. You may not respect the person, but respect authority. And then set the example to change the behavior.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


This summer has been so incredibly busy. I like busy. I thrive on busy. However...I'm tired. And the busy won't be letting up anytime soon. I knew that going into a doctoral program would make my free time and me time vanish instantly. It has, and don't get me wrong. I love my program. I love what I am doing. But...I'm tired. PhD programs are busy. Being a mother is a busy job. I'm pretty sure the only people who do both at once are crazy type A people, like myself, who obviously are masochistic and thrive under pressure (Sidenote: what a wonderful way to describe myself! If anyone else said that to me I would rage on them with a stapler)

I don't know where May and June went. Or July for that matter. I remember the spring semester ending. Then I was making electrodes and pollution sources. I was reading articles and learning to use power tools. I was looking at new rental houses. Then I was in California for a the only vacation I will get during my 4 years (unless someone else gets married out of state. That always gets me a long weekend at least). I was home for 3 days and packing to go up to UMBS for my field work. Another 9 days passed. Next was packing and prepping to move.  And teaching 3 labs and one recitation a week. We moved. Now, I had to unpack and decorate because apparently garbage bags, laundry baskets, and rubbermaid tubs are unsightly decor. Now here, I sit in the last part of July, as my summer session of teaching is drawing to a close, the house has finally started to look like it's lived in, and trying to remember the last time I slept. 

My schedule since teaching started has been steady and consistent. Wake up, get ready, guzzle coffee, get Isaac up and out the door to be at school by 8:30 to set up lab. Teach for 3 hours. Take care of the crayfish system (which is leaking and has to be drained so it can be repaired.) and print outs. Answer emails. Head home around 1 to eat and let the dog out. Do laundry and dishes. Run errands. Grade papers to hand back the next day. Write the next day's lecture and go over the lab. Pick up Isaac. Make dinner. Give Isaac a bath. Work on dissertation proposal and data from the summer. Suddenly it's 11 pm. Weekends are spent unpacking and with family parties (seriously, did everyone have to be born in the summer?) and are gone before they start. 

I'm exhausted. And burnt out. 

To recharge, I have decided that every Wednesday, I am allowed to eat fast food for lunch and then take a nap. I ignore everything else until after I pick Isaac up from daycare. Wednesday nights aren't that much fun, but I need these mini-breaks or I would GO INSANE. 

I know what I signed up for. I also know my limits. I have to have this one afternoon as my vacation, as meager as it may be. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

So you know that poem that tells you that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice? And then it goes on to say that boys are made of snakes (snips, whatever) and snails and puppy dog tails, which I was always kind irked by, especially when I found out I was carrying a boy. Who wants to write that on a shower invitation?! Well, then I realized that it's true. BOYS ARE GROSS.

Isaac is three and a half and all boy. I love him to death, but he's gross. There is no way around it. He's a gross little boy that likes to be gross.

He picks his nose and wipes it on me. He also chases me with boogers and eye boogers, laughing hysterically.

He farts and laughs about it. ALL THE TIME.

He peed on Luna. Yep, you read that right. He pulled down his pants and peed on our dog. I am blaming  this one on my husband who taught Isaac to go pee outside when there are no bathrooms available. Typical boy thing.

He explained to me that there are two types of poop. There is firework poop and there is snake poop. Nuff said.

He tells me that he wants to tell me a secret, pulls my ear toward him and then blows a raspberry on my cheek. Or licks it.

He spits on the table or some surface and then drives his toy cars through it.

I know that these things are typical of most little boys. And probably most kids for that matter (except the peeing on the dog. GROSS). I just don't know many little girls that are Isaac's age that do such. He does have wonderful manners (most times) and is super polite. When he is not around me, that is. Mommy gets the gross. I'm pretty sure that is in the job description.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

He's fearless...and gives me heart attacks on a daily basis. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Yesterday, while eating dinner on my patio for the first time in so long, I was thinking about the past year and all that has changed. I wasn't thinking about how it has changed for me or for my husband. I was looking at my beautiful little boy, and thinking about how life has changed for him. Ben and I are both happy. But is Isaac?

Isaac was pushing 2 and 1/2 this time last year, when I pack up our lives and uprooted him to Ohio. I took him away from his daycare and his friends. I took him from his Aunties. I took him from his familiar surroundings, the only home he had ever known, even if it was such a short time. I put him in a car and drove away from our lives in California, where we had been happy.

When we got to Ohio, we were in a new house, that was unfamiliar. His crib was the only thing to break in the cross-country move. The $30 Walmart bookcase made it, but the $400 crib didn't. He was put into an unfamiliar bed in a new room. He started a new daycare with new people. He got a new puppy.

His surroundings were not the only thing to change. His daily routine was severely impacted. He went from having mommy time from the moment I picked him up after work, to having playtime by himself. My life was so different in terms of work and schedule, and he took the brunt of it. I thrive on being busy and pressure, but Isaac thrived on me. Isaac saw a new persona in me. Additionally, he had daddy around more. In California, it was me and Isaac. Ben worked so much, that Isaac believed his daddy lived in the computer for 5 days since he only saw him on Skype. He was suddenly surrounded by people he had only seen a few times before in his life.

Then we started potty trained. He lost the comfort of diapers. His friends started moving up to the next daycare class and he would tell me that he missed them. For the first time, I took him somewhere with me where he wasn't with me, but watched by someone else. And then we moved again, to a new house. At the end of this month, he will move in preschool, where his daily routine will be changed again, and he will have new expectations.

Life has changed so radically in the past year for him. Good changes, in my opinion. But he is so young, and I have to wonder how it has impacted him and what he thinks of it. Are any of these changes responsible for the way he acts? You always hear that children and resilient and that they bounce back quickly from things. But how resilient is he? Is there a tipping point? I also hear that children need stability and routine. They need consistency. Has he had enough of that?

We made these changes to give Isaac a better life in the long run. Our lives individually are so much better, that it makes us a happier family. I just wonder if Isaac is happy. Is his life better than what it was in California? Did we move him too soon? Too late? Change too much, too fast? How is he coping? Does he know what has changed? Does he expect more change? Does he even remember what his life was like?

I love my little boy more than anything else in this world. I would give up everything and anything to ensure his happiness and stability. I want his life to be wonderful and full. I don't want him to feel insecure or unstable. For the past year, I have fought with emotions that make me want to change his life back to a time when I knew he was happy. I am not saying I don't know if he's happy. He is happy.

We moved because we knew we would be happier. Ben and I are. But is Isaac happier?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Home Is Where the Heart Is...As Long As There Is Carpet There, Too

This time last year, I was surrounded by boxes, trash bags, and laundry baskets piled high with crap as we moved from California to Ohio. And here I sit again, amid piles of stuff, wondering why the hell we  moved AGAIN even it it was just 4 blocks from where we landed last year.

Then I look at the back yard that has Luna and Isaac running around and splashing through his pool.

We finally moved HOME. It feels like we are home.

I really liked the house we moved into last year. It was adorable. But we rented it unseen, and it just wasn't home.

It got me thinking about all the different places we have lived in the past 10ish years. Only one other place really felt like home. Funnily enough, Ben and I were talking about this the other night, and we both felt the same. The only other place that felt like home was our apartment in Sonoma.

I don't know what it is about this house and that apartment that made them have a different feeling. Isaac was never in Sonoma with us, and the house we all lived in together in California was lovely (kind of Dr Seuss-y, but still lovely). The only thing these two place really have in common is carpet. They were both fully carpeted. Well, and they had laundry rooms in the actual living space so I didn't have to  venture outside or down into a creepy basement to have clean clothes.

What is it about the carpet that makes us feel home? Neither of us grew up in carpeted homes. I can't tell you why this house gives me this feeling, but it does. WE ARE HOME. And we couldn't be happier.